Do I need braces? This is a common question faced by both adults and adolescents. While braces are commonly suggested for older children showing signs of dental misalignment, adults can certainly benefit from braces. In fact, in recent years, more adults have been opting for the procedure.
If you’re wondering whether you need braces, it’s important to know that the need for braces can often go beyond your desire for straighter teeth – though that is one reason many adults choose braces. Braces can also help to correct several serious dental concerns that could cause significant issues in the future. Whether you’re considering braces for yourself or a child in your care, it can help to explore the common reasons a dentist or orthodontist may suggest braces.
Signs Adults May Need Braces
Braces are designed to help with several different dental conditions. Some abnormalities in jaw or tooth development commonly addressed with braces are readily apparent. Others can be subtler, which can mean they may go undiagnosed for years.
While getting braces as an adult is a feasible option, most adults choosing braces could have benefited from braces as a child or adolescent. In fact, taking care of these dental concerns as a child or adolescent may have helped avoid years of pain and discomfort. When it comes to your dental health, any instances of discomfort, soreness, or pain should be professionally assessed.
In many instances, ignoring a dental concern can result in the condition becoming worse. This can lead to not only more pain but a more complex procedure to correct the issue.
For an adult, common signs that you might need braces can include the following:
- Difficulty flossing and brushing due to crooked teeth
- Biting the tongue or inside of the cheeks frequently
- Visible crowding or gaps
- Difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, impacting speech
- Discomfort along the jawline, particularly after chewing
- Jaw clicking
- Any sharp pains
How to Tell If a Child Needs Braces
It can be a bit more challenging to diagnose if your child may need braces. However, engaging in proper dental care and seeking a dental assessment at an early age can make a significant difference in your child’s oral health. Early visits to the dentist help to reduce fear of the dentist, can help your child understand the importance of dental health, and ensure you identify potential issues.
If your dentist identifies potential issues during an early visit, they can continue to monitor your child’s oral health over time, noting any changes and developing a treatment plan to address them before they affect your child’s eating habits or speech.
Together with your dentist, watch for these signs your child may need braces in the near future:
- Teeth that are crooked or crowded
- Mouth breathing
- Clicking jaw
- Thumb sucking or pacifier use past the age of 2
- Early or late loss of baby teeth
- Biting the tongue or inside of the teeth
- Teeth that don’t come together when the mouth is shut
Dental Conditions That Often Require Braces
If you’ve noticed any of the above signs you or your child may need braces, schedule a consultation with an orthodontist to identify the dental problem that needs to be addressed. Common issues that may necessitate braces include crowding, gapping, overbite, underbite, crossbite, and open bite.
Crowding is a common dental concern that is caused by a lack of space in the mouth to accommodate all the teeth. Crowding can make it difficult to properly brush and floss. This can have an adverse effect on dental health, leading to increased plaque accumulation that can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and other serious dental risks. This, in turn, could necessitate costly dental repairs or even tooth removal.
Crowding can also lead to speech problems. The tongue and teeth play a critical role in creating mouth shapes and positions that create sound. If teeth are not where they should be, the way a person speaks can be adversely impacted. Fortunately, crowding can be addressed in children before speech therapy becomes necessary. Similarly, if you are currently experiencing crowding or question what could happen over time, braces may be the best option for you.
Gapping is the opposite of crowding. Instead of the teeth emerging too close together, there are spaces between the teeth. Gaps can be caused by missing teeth, poor oral hygiene habits, or a jaw that is too large for the teeth present to fill it. Gapping can also be hereditary. In a cosmetic sense, gaps take away from that picture-perfect smile we see in ads and on TV. This can lead to self-esteem issues, reducing the confidence a person may feel in themselves.
Worse, gingivitis and periodontitis are gum diseases that more commonly occur with gapped teeth. Food can get caught in the gaps, and improper oral care can mean debris allows bacteria to grow in the available space. Gaps can also make flossing more difficult, potentially increasing the risk of scraping your gums.
Overall, both crowding and gapping can cause a misaligned bite, leading teeth to shift. In fact, any situation where there is irregular spacing between teeth can cause shifting. This shifting can cause pain, increase sensitivity, and make it more difficult to chew. For example, it is typical to see a person with gapped or crowded teeth chew more forcefully, which can lead to chipped teeth.
An overbite occurs when the upper front teeth overlap the lower front teeth when the jaw is closed. An overbite can be genetically linked or may be a result of various causes, such as teeth grinding, tongue-thrusting, or even excessive nail biting. Even if an overbite is not immediately noticeable from a cosmetic standpoint, it is still a concern.
An overbite can cause serious oral problems. For example, overbites can lead to excessive tooth wear or even trauma and fracture of the front teeth since the mouth does not close evenly. An overbite can also cause difficulty or pain while chewing, jaw pain, and speech problems. Braces can help correct the position of both upper and lower teeth, helping them meet as they should for easier chewing and a winning smile.
As you may suspect, an underbite is the opposite of an overbite. An underbite occurs when the upper front teeth are behind the lower front teeth when the jaw is closed. Underbites can be hereditary and may be associated with issues like cleft lips and palates in babies. For children, underbites can also develop due to pacifier use, tongue thrusting, thumb sucking, and extended bottle feeding.
Most individuals with an underbite notice issues when it comes to chewing and biting. Cosmetically, underbites can noticeably impact the appearance of a smile. They can also accelerate facial aging or create an imbalanced look in a person’s appearance.
Unaddressed underbites can lead to a number of complications throughout a person’s life. This can include difficulty with speech, including slurring and lisping, sleep apnea, increased risk of tooth decay, abnormally shaped teeth, and potential cracking of the teeth. Braces can help move the teeth into a better position, relieving associated pain or discomfort and helping to prevent more dental complications in the future.
A crossbite occurs when an upper tooth crosses in front of or behind a lower opposing tooth. This can sometimes be confused as an underbite, but the two conditions are quite different. A crossbite can result in a tooth being closer to the tongue or cheek than it should be. An unaddressed crossbite can cause unnecessary wear and tear of the teeth, gum recession, and even asymmetric jaw growth.
There are numerous symptoms that are commonly associated with a crossbite. This can include difficulty speaking clearly, jaw pain, blinding headaches, teeth grinding, and constant biting of the inner cheek or tongue while eating or speaking. Oral health risks of a crossbite include tooth decay, periodontal disease, asymmetrical smile, and regular pain in the jaw. Braces can help ensure that the teeth are repositioned for better alignment, an improved bite, and pain relief.
An open bite occurs when the front upper or lower teeth angle away from the gums. This prevents the teeth from touching when the jaw closes. This improper alignment can cause speech problems, difficulty biting, and other dental concerns. Open bites can be caused by several factors. One common factor is thumb or pacifier sucking due to the outward strain it puts on the teeth. Another factor can be tongue thrusting, which causes similar outward strain.
Leaving an open bite untreated can cause several issues, both cosmetic and oral health-related. An open bite can cause teeth to look like they are protruding from the mouth, which can impact a person’s confidence in their smile. An open bite can also affect speech, prevent proper biting and chewing, and cause tooth damage due to increased wear and an elevated risk of fractures, chips, and breaks. Braces can help to correct an open bite, both in childhood as teeth are becoming set firmly in place as well as in adulthood.
When Should I Visit an Orthodontist?
Proper oral care begins with a person’s commitment to maintaining oral health at home. For the most part, this involves brushing and flossing after meals or at least three times per day. However, as indicated by the many causes of dental issues, including genetics, thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, teeth grinding, and more, proper brushing may not be enough to help you avoid oral issues. If you notice signs of a potential dental issue listed above, ask your dentist at your regularly scheduled cleaning.
A dental provider can assess whether braces may benefit your unique oral situation and refer you to an orthodontist for further examination. While the thought of braces may be intimidating, even if you’re an adult, they are an important part of ensuring your bite stays healthy for years to come. Scheduling a consultation with an orthodontist can help you determine whether your oral issues can be solved with braces.
Braces do much more than improve your smile. They can correct many oral issues, such as crowding, gaps, overbites, underbites, and more. These conditions can increase the risk of tooth damage and decay, as well as discomfort and pain, but braces can help move your teeth into proper alignment. This not only produces a healthier, more confident smile but also prevents fractures, chips, and breaks.
Are Braces Right for You? Contact Robison Orthodontics
Whether you’re experiencing oral discomfort or you’re simply wondering if your smile might be improved with orthodontics, it’s critical to stay on top of your oral health. Committing to regular dental exams and cleanings can help your dental provider uncover any potential risks before they can cause complications. Then, visiting your orthodontist to assess these risks can help you find a lasting solution.
To learn more about how braces and other orthodontic solutions could help you restore your oral health and your smile, contact our orthodontist office in Gilbert to schedule a consultation.
Dr. Tyler Robison is an alum of Mesa’s Mountain View High School. He graduated from Brigham Young University before being accepted to the “Top Ten-nationally ranked” University of Louisville in Kentucky, where he earned his Doctorate in Dental Medicine and a Master’s Degree in Oral Biology. He graduated with honors in the top ten percent of his class. Dr. Robison continued at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco, where he received a second master’s degree in dental science and his orthodontic certification.